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Business sector braces for minimum wage hike “A year and three months for over a 30 per cent increase is way too short. It should have been over at least four years.”


Business owners are preparing for the changes the Ontario minimumwage hike will bring in January. TheWynne Liberal government approved an omnibus piece of legislation Nov. 22 to increase theminimumwage to $14 an hour, beginning on Jan. 1 2018, and to $15 in 2019. The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, or Bill 148, also amends several labour and em- ployment standards, such as decreasing the corporate tax rate to 3.5 per cent from 4.5, ensuring same pay for part-time, casual and temporary employees as full-timers for equal work, and allowing 10 days personal emergency leave for all employees.Themini- mum wage hike remains the prime source of disagreement. The government claims the legislation is a boost for the economy – more people spending more money; less people rely- ing on government assistance – however many in the business sector are concerned about the speed in which the government has pushed this agenda. “I am not against minimum wage in- creases, I’monly against the time span they are doing it in,” said Eli Saikaley, the owner of Friendly Restaurant & Pizzeria in Rockland.

These exact sentiments were expressed by the Hawkesbury Chamber of Commerce, the Clarence-Rockland Chamber of Commerce and the United Counties of Prescott and Russell in a joint letter written to the Min- ister of Labour, Kevin Flynn, in September. The letter addressed the large increase in payroll the minimum wage would impose on bottom line businesses, some of which would not survive, and proposed a more reasonable time frame of reaching the $15 end goal by the year 2022 instead. “We knew, no question about it, that the bill was going to pass.The question was always more when and how,” said Karine Lauzon, the director general of the Clarence-Rockland Chamber of Commerce. For Julie Brisson, president of the Prescott-Russell Chamber of Commerce (CCPCC), the impact of raising theminimum wage on entrepreneurs will vary according to their type of business.”Certainly, compa- nies with minimum wage people will see a big impact on their bottom line, because that’s where the increases are going to be,” she said. “It’s a change, and it’s scary. It will sure have an impact over the long termand contractors will have to adjust.”

Le gouvernement libéral de Kathleen Wynne a approuvé un projet de loi qui portera le salaire minimum de la province à 14 $ l’heure à compter du 1er janvier 2018 et, finalement, à 15 $ exactement un an plus tard. Plusieurs gens dumilieu des affaires de la région s’inquiètent de la rapidité avec laquelle le gouvernement a poussé cette loi et les impacts négatifs que cela apportera à leurs entreprises.

Business owners in Embrun are also brac- ing for the changes with one owner having a study done to determine the necessary price increase to his products. “The increase in wages goes on the backs of customers,” he said. In themeantime, restaurant owner Eli Saikaley has already begun to brace for the changes that will need to come to his restaurant, including the raise he will have to give his higher-paid employees and the increase in fees to his menu. “I will not lower my standards,” he announced. “We will need to pass it on to the consumer by increasing our menu to maintain our quality food and service.” Saikaley also knows he will have to raise his employees’ salaries already earning in the ballpark of the $15 an hour wage, or else

his chefs will end up making the same as his dishwashers. “Labor cost is going up, so supply costs are going to go up,” he added. “It doesn’t just work as a minimum wage increase, it is an everyone and everything increase.” Despite concerns and alternative time- lines brought forth by those in the business sector, the government has remained firm on their position. In a letter addressed back to the Cham- bers of Commerce and the UCPR, the Min- ister of Labour reiterated the advantages of Bill 148 – higher wages lead to greater job satisfaction and productivity, less turnover and more spending power for low income earners.

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